Portland Trail Blazers (29-37) at San Antonio Spurs (52-14)
March 15, 2017, 5:00 PST
Watch: KGW, ESPN; Listen: Rip City Radio 620 AM
Blazers injuries: Evan Turner (out), Ed Davis (out), Festus Ezeli (out)
LaMarcus Aldridge (out), Tony Parker (day-to-day), Dejounte Murray (day-to-day)
SBN Affiliate: Pounding The Rock
Update (9:00 am): In a surprise announcement, the San Antonio Spurs have welcomed LaMarcus Aldridge back into the starting lineup. He’s expected to play tonight.
LaMarcus Aldridge is available to play tonight. pic.twitter.com/rBq0wllVzT— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) March 15, 2017
The Trail Blazers will be looking to put a nightmare performance in New Orleans behind them when they visit San Antonio tonight. The positive vibes cultivated by Portland’s four-game winning streak to start the month are falling by the wayside, as they have now dropped two of their last three games. Tonight will not get any easier for coach Terry Stotts’ squad, as the Spurs have only lost one game since the All-Star break.
The timetable for LaMarcus Aldridge’s return is still undecided, but the Spurs will have a healthy Kawhi Leonard in uniform for this evening’s game. In typical San Antonio fashion, Leonard is quietly putting together an MVP-caliber season. After missing one game due to the NBA’s concussion protocol, the former San Diego State forward returned to play against the Hawks on Monday.
Kawhi should be in for a big game on the defensive end, as Portland is averaging 14.5 turnovers per 100 possessions this month. Spurs coach Gregg Popovic has made a living by putting his players in position to succeed on both ends of the court, and Leonard will likely be in place to nab a handful of steals in this one.
Joining him along San Antonio’s defensive front is the rejuvenated Dewayne Dedmon. Much like Maurice Harkless, Dedmon was undervalued upon his departure from Orlando. The 7-foot center has started 22 games for the Spurs this season, and has supplanted Pau Gasol in the starting rotation. While Dedmon’s blocks per game average hasn’t increased, he’s making an impact in other ways, evidenced by his staggering leap in defensive win shares this season.
Dedmon won’t be the only reclamation project starting in the frontcourt for the Spurs. After falling from All-Star status, David Lee has become the latest veteran to resurrect his career in San Antonio. Lee is two games into replacement duty for Aldridge, putting up double-digit scoring efforts both nights.
It’s clear the Aldridge-less Spurs still pose a massive threat to the Blazers, which isn’t good news given last night’s dismal performance. Jusuf Nurkic appears to be returning to reality, struggling in two of his last three outings; it’s unclear if defenses are adjusting to Portland’s new center, or if Nurkic’s lack of conditioning is finally catching up to him.
Nurkic wasn’t alone in his poor performance against the Pelicans, as CJ McCollum failed to score in the double-digits for the first time since November. A quick turnaround could be in order, as he amassed 29 points against the Spurs in the last meeting.
The Blazers have been outscored by a combined total of 36 points in their last two matchups with San Antonio, making a victory tonight a long shot for the visitors. Portland will have to correct some major errors in a short amount of time to end their two-year winless drought against the Spurs.